Monday, 26 November 2007

Bonfires

They do things differently in Sussex. When I was a small child, bonfire night meant a family party in the back garden with silver fountains, Catherine wheels, the occasional rocket and sparklers held tightly in gloved hands. Yorkshire parkin, perhaps, and potatoes wrapped in silver foil, cooked in the embers.

More recently, bonfire nights have been large organised events held at the children's schools, or in the glebe field of the nearby village church. Big bonfires with spectacular fireworks and the chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances, if you can find them in the flickering light.

So when I was invited to a big display in a nearby village the weekend before last, I was expecting the usual jolly but civilised affair. We parked on the far side of the busy A road that bypasses the village and walked through the narrow streets lined with tumbledown houses and cottages, wondering if we could gatecrash the parties that seemed to be happening behind every lighted window and, if so, which one we would most like to join? The high street was a heaving mass of warmly wrapped bodies as people lined the route ten deep. We found a vantage point and minutes later the procession exploded into view.

Scores of people, dressed in bizarre and macabre costumes, with blackened faces, paraded along the street, carrying flares, letting off firecrackers, beating on drums. A primative and tribal ritual that has been carried out annually in this village ever since the gunpowder plot. There was, apparently, strong anti-Catholic feeling in this part of the world and there are a number of bonfire societies which plan this event annually. Secret societies where membership is passed on from generation to generation.

The procession retraced its steps to a large field on the outskirts of the village, the crowd following behind. The bonfire was lit, the largest and fiercest bonfire I have ever seen, forcing the crowd back with the intense heat it generated. Then the fireworks started and the sky exploded with light and colour, at one point a tree set alight by a maverick firework. I snuggled closer to The Man in the Woolly Jumper (previously known as The Man in the Pink Shirt), who has come back into my life, as, somewhat stunned, we retraced our steps to the car and the 21st century.

18 comments:

  1. Lovely atmospheric piece, Marianne. And I love the fact that the man in the pink shirt has made the seasonal transition to become the man in the woolly jumper! So much more fitting for the time of year.

    It almost seems as if Halloween has taken over from Bonfire night in Britain now, however. I'm not at all sure I welcome the change. I always loved the peculiar Britishness of Guy Fawkes night... as someone once wrote:

    ".... What the British love best of all is the heroic failure, the gigantic flop. What other nation is there after all, whose best-loved war poem is one which celebrates a charge made in the wrong direction - and whose only national hero, honoured with a day of his own, is a man who tried and failed to blow up the House of Commons?"

    There's truth in that, don't you think? But somehow, much of it has got lost along the way. Bring back Britishness, I say!

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  2. Yes, the British do have a different take on things. A German friend once commented on how strange the British are to picnic in November, in the dark, wrapped up warmly and celebrating a man's gruesome death.

    I think TMITPS needs to be re-christened - new beginnings? and it's too cold for shirts.

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  3. Oh Marianne, I'm 'rootling' for you. You just can't beat a nice woolly jumper in November, I think, especially when it comes with fireworks.

    Love Lizzie
    x
    Hope you're AOK.

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  4. ooooooo! you and the man in the woolly jumper must be meant to be!
    were you in Lewes? I've seen it in the papers, it always seemed a bit devil worshippy, but kind of fun to watch.
    pigx

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  5. Sounds a wonderfully different night and welcome back to the man. I used to live near ottery st mary in devon where they roll flaming barrels. It would be sad to lose these things. Had another choir practice monday and loved it again. Thanks for your comment on mine. How are your kittens?

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  6. I do have a soft spot for men in woolly jumpers, particularly this one, Lizzie. Nice to see you again. What are you up to these days? I check you from time to time, but you're very quiet.

    Not far from Lewes, PITK, and definitely more than a touch of devilry. A very hightly charged atmosphere.

    Enjoy the singing Elizabeth. Sounds fun. The kittens are incredibly naughty and great fun. Wouldn't be without them!

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  7. Sounds like an exhilarating evening. Fireworks and a warm man - does it get any better?

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  8. It sounds like you had a wonderful night.
    Isn't it nice to know there is a man out there who still wears a woolly pulley and not a fleece LOL.
    Good luck to the both of you.

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  9. Hang on, why is Man putting on more clothes. He was in shirt, now he is in jumper. Next it will be in overcoat. Then what? I want man in vest showing gorgeous toned muscles, followed by man minus vest. Phwoarrr (sorry - it's been a long year).

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  10. Steady on OM! It is winter after all, and we aren't quite the young, toned things we used to be.

    PS. He doesn't wear vests - too sissy he says. He does strip down on the boat though, in summer, so you'll have to hang on a bit.

    There's nothing like a warm man in a woolly jumper on a cold winter's night, Boatwoman. How's the kitten?

    Actually, the evening did get better, Mountainear ...

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  11. Shades of The Wicker Man! I always feel a little pang for Guy Fawkes, who was, as the old anarchist t-shirt has it, the only man who went to Parliament with the intention of keeping his promise.

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  12. What strange old rituals the British keep - Sounds quite an evening out! Like you say, meanwhile back in the 21st century...!

    So winter draws in and your man is still around, of course he must be - you're special. Glad for you Marianne :)

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  13. Poor Guy, but at least he will never be forgotten. Scratch the surface, Dick, and mob rule is closer than we think.

    How are you Merry? What news? Hope to see you posting again soon. Yes, the MITPS/TMITWJ is still around, I'm pleased to say. HOpe it will be a good Christmas this year.

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  14. Lovely Marianne,

    I am sure the man in the wooly jumper is now the man in the big rain coat. I am pleased you are together.

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  15. Wow!
    Sussex sounds interesting...clearly, Cheshire needs to get her act together..

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  16. He could always become The Man In The Pink Woolly Jumper, no? Delighted he's back in your life and do hope Christmas and New Year will be sparkling for you.
    Is the boy still doing well?

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  17. Actually, DM, he is the man in the waterproofs, getting cold and wet on his boat this weekend. Rather him than me.

    Sussex has its moments, Jan. From reading your blog, Cheshire seems to have its interesting moments, too.

    Pink woolly jumpers would be a little too close to the line @themill. Men are not quite that evolved - anyway, it's bottle green. I'm beginning to think he only has the one.

    Things are erratic with the boy. The good intentions at the beginning of the school year have lapsed rather and we sometimes struggle to cope.

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